JERUSALEM - On a day that included a meeting with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank, President Barack Obama has urged Israelis to recognize that compromise will be necessary in order for them to achieve lasting security.
In a speech to Israeli university students in Jerusalem, Obama declared again that Israeli expansion of housing settlements in disputed territory only hurts chances for fruitful negotiations with the Palestinians. But he didn't say, as he has in the past, that those settlements must be stopped.
Obama told the students that the United States is their country's best friend and most important ally. He said the U.S. will never back down on its commitment to Israel's defense -- particularly against threats such as the one posed by Iran and its nuclear program.
He received frequent applause from many of the students in the audience -- even when he stressed that Israel must make peace with the Palestinians to ensure its survival as a homeland for the Jewish people. He said Israeli occupation of areas that the Palestinians claim as their own state must end.
Earlier, standing alongside Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, Obama made similar comments. And he condemned the firing of two rockets on southern Israel by militants in Gaza. But he essentially abandoned his previous support for the Palestinian demand that settlement activity end before talks resume.
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